17 July, 2011

Sunday OR "Using up Leftovers" Day!

Every second Sunday (the one after The Entrance Markets) seems to have become "using up leftovers" day.

Any fruit and vegetables that are leftover from FIG on a Tuesday or the markets the fortnight before have to be used to make way for all the fresh produce.

Sunday nights in winter seem to have become "soup and crumble" night and biscuits and cakes once again fill their respective containers as well as the freezer. Also the boys now have their weekly yoghurt supply to keep them going!

Sunday is also baking day and today I made enough biscuit dough to make 150 biscuits. I baked 1/5 of it, divided the rest of the dough in 4, added extra flavouring, rolled them in gladwrapped logs and popped them in the freezer. When I need them a log comes out of the freezer and is sliced in to rounds and baked from frozen. The ones I baked today were jam drops and the ones I froze were chocolate chip, white chocolate and cocoa, ginger and peanut butter/peanut! But with these types of biscuits you are really only limited by your imagination. So now we have biscuits for a while.

Tonight's soup is "white soup" which would be called potato and leek soup if I hadn't chucked in the leftover hunk of cauliflower that was hanging around in the fridge! Plus the leftover cream from Little Creek Cheese will go in to the soup.

Also on the menu for dinner is a rhubarb and apple crumble. Even the juice from the left over lemon wedges we didn't use with our fish during the week and the juice of a couple of wrinkled oranges that the kids kept bypassing went in to the fruit for the crumble!

So it's been a busy day in the kitchen but one that feels worthwhile.

"Waste not want not" is a saying I try to live by. EVERTHING you don't throw away, but find a use for, is money you don't have to earn. I think in Australia we waste way too much food these days. We've become such a disposable society. It is all too easy to chuck it in the bin when it's looking a bit tired rather than finding inventive ways to use it up.

I also made an apple cake to get rid of some of the leftover apples.

This recipe comes from one of my favourite old books "Family Circle: Fabulous Fast Cakes" published in 1994. I have added some water to the recipe as it was way too dry, added extra spice and reduced the cooking time.........so here is my version that I have been using for years now.

Apple and Fruit Cake Recipe
2 medium apples (any variety)
1 cup sugar
1 cup sultanas (or mixed fruit)....running out of sultanas, with not quite a cup, today I added chopped dates
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour
2 eggs, beaten
60 melted butter
1/4 cup water

Preheat over to 180 degC
Grease a 20cm square or round cake tin
Peel, core and slice the apples finely (I also chop the slices in half)
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon
Spoon mixture into the prepared pan
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes
When a wooden skewer comes out clean it is ready
Cool on a wire rack

So easy and so yummy! AND it means that at least 2 apples will no longer become landfill!! Also it is freezable so I often make more than one though today butter was becoming an issue!

15 July, 2011

Homemade Pasta (school holiday amusement)

A few months ago I bought an Atlas pasta maker and it has sat in it's box in the cupboard ever since! Expensive piece of rubbish maybe? NO!!!! Not any more anyway. I think I was just scared by the thought of making my own pasta? You CAN get pasta makers a lot cheaper but they are just that..............cheap!! From the stories I have been told anyway. I ventured there once, bought a cheap one, took it out of it's box and took it straight back to the store (after putting it back in it's box of course) for a refund. It had the bubble wrap moulded in to the body of the machine and you couldn't change cutting mechanisms. Nasty little waste of money.

Anyway, I decided today was the right time to use my investment. School holidays (well if you can call them that when you homeschool) and a bored 12yo boy on my hands made it the right time. Playdough is now a bit juvenile for him, pasta is similar to playdough AND you get to eat the result plus one of his favourite hobbies is eating.

I haven't made pasta by hand since I was married to my first husband (gee that would be about 30 years ago maybe?) and then it was SERIOUSLY by hand...no machines, no gizmos, no gadgets. Today I used a food processor for the dough and the pasta machine to roll and shape the dough. I would at least recommend the food processor to anyone reading this though to be honest the whole lot CAN be done by hand.

The result was delicious and hence the reason why the pasta maker is going to get a lot more airing from now on.......even by the said 12 year old who has vowed HE loves fresh pasta enough to make it himself! He did enjoy it but we'll see how long it takes him to realise that it could take away from his computer time!

I also made a bolognese sauce like I've never made before, with milk and cream, trying to stick to the authentic recipe from Bologna. Seeing so much love went in to the pasta the sauce all of a sudden became very important as well.

So here is the pasta recipe for those who feel like getting back to nature or becoming an Italian Mamma! Gosh I envy anyone who grew up in Italy with a mum who made everything from scratch! One of the photos is me looking very much like a big mamma!!!!

Basic Pasta Recipe
4 generous servings
(if you don't want to make it for 4 the ratio is 1 egg to 3/4 cup plain flour)

3 cups plain flour
4 eggs
2 large pinches of salt

In a Food Processor:
Put the flour and salt in the food processor, add the eggs one by one down the chute till the mixture forms a ball
Take dough out of the processor and knead for 2 to 3 minutes
Wrap in a teatowel to prevent a skin forming and rest for 15 minutes

By Hand:
In a large bowl (or on the bench) mound the flour and make a well in the middle
Add the eggs and salt
Use a fork or your fingers and slowly start blending from the middle, working more and more of the flour in to the egg mixture (you may need to add some water to make the dough the right consistency for kneading)
When it is all combined knead for about 5 minutes
Wrap the dough in a teatowel and rest for 15 minutes

For the pasta machine:
Cut the dough in to 5 or 6 even amounts, roll each in to a ball and squash it a bit
Run each ball through on the widest setting (on my machine it is 1) 3 times, then fold the pasta in thirds (see photo) and run it through on 1 again. Repeat the folding and running through another 5 or 6 times (on 1), till the dough feels silky
Put the machine on 2, run the dough through
Put the machine on 3, repeat
Keep going till the dough is as thin as you want it, right down to 9. I stopped at 5
When the dough is as thing as you desire use the cutters
Tonight I made tagliatelle

IF you are doing it by hand the same "silky feel" applies, keep rolling and folding and rolling and folding till it feels right and you have it as thin as you desire
To cut hand rolled pasta in to strips (ie tagliatelle) leave it to rest for a little bit till it's a bit drier or it might stick then roll each sheet up like a jam roll and slice along the length (this is how I did it 30 years and 3 marriages ago!)

Hang the finished pasta over a broom handle between 2 chairs or lay it out on a teatowel to dry a little bit before cooking.

Fresh pasta takes a lot less time than dried pasta to cook.

Bring a very large pot of well salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook for about 5 minutes, checking by tasting it, till cooked. It won;t go as "mushy" as supermarket dry pasta and you will really all of a sudden understand the meaning of "al dente"!!

09 July, 2011

Poached pears in a spicy red wine syrup

Winter calls for seasonal fruit of a warming variety and red wine........and this recipe incorporates both things!

At FIG this week we got pears again (Food Integrity Group, an organic food coop on the Central Coast, NSW)........and they were a bit hard, with not a great chance of ripening any time soon, so I reckoned that with the cold weather the way it is, red wine and a bit of simmering they should be perfect in no time at all!

I'm not sure what order the photos will upload but they show the cooking process, the finished product with a quenelle of cream (Caitie was in a "quenelling mood") and another one of how we actually ate it with a big blob of cream.

So here's the way I did it and I decided that taste testing had to come before blogging. So here I sit with a replete belly typing.

Pears In a Spicy Red Wine Syrup

serves 4 to 6 (depending on how many pears you use and how big they are)

300ml red wine
300ml water
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
zest and juice of 1 orange
4-6 pears

Heat everything except the pears in a medium sized saucepan
Bring to the boil and boil till the sugar dissolves
Peel the pears and chop off a bit of their bottoms so they sit flat, if you're in the mood core them as well (though I don't bother)
Pop them in the pot (and a lot of people say sit them upright but it seriously doesn't matter, mine do just fine lying down)
Bring back to the boil, reduce heat then simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until pears are soft when tested with the point of a sharp knife
Remove the cinnamon and cloves
Put in the fridge to cool (overnight is good but not essential)
Serve with icecream, cream or creme anglaise
(tonight I used whipped cream with a half a vanilla bean and a dash of sugar, I think it's called something fancy like "creme chantilly", but to me it's just the way mum used to do cream!)